Protection may be too late for butterfly

Nov. 15, 2011 at 5:47 PM
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Efforts to save an endangered butterfly that was once a common sight in Iowa may be too little, too late, conservationists say.

The tiny Poweshiek skipper, which makes its home in native prairie remnants in Iowa and a few nearby states, is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act following sharp declines across most of the its range, but experts say it may have come too late, The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette reported Monday.

"They waited too long," Dennis Schlicht, co-author of "The Butterflies of Iowa," said.

"They're gone now," said Schlicht, who sounded the alarm about the skipper years ago.

Skippers, or skipperlings, are a type of butterfly sometimes mistaken for moths, and the Poweshiek skipper, a small brown and orange butterfly with distinctive white veins on its wings, is one of several species of skippers that have been disappearing in the past 10 years, Schlicht said.

In 2007, Schlicht searched 26 locations where an Iowa State University student had documented as many as 150 skippers per site in 1993 and 1994.

"To my horror, I only found this skipperling at one site," Olsen said. "The population had just plummeted."

Harlan Ratcliff, 55, of Granger, who has studied the skipper for almost 10 years, said populations declined as Iowa's prairies began disappearing.

"It's really the only true species of butterfly discovered in Iowa," he said. "It's kind of a shame to lose it from Iowa."

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